Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 159, Issue 4, pp 511-519

First online:

Initiation of swimming activity by trigger neurons in the leech subesophageal ganglion

III. Sensory inputs to Tr1 and Tr2
  • Peter D. BrodfuehrerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Virginia
  • , W. Otto FriesenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Virginia

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In papers I and II of this series, we described two pairs of interneurons, Tr1 and Tr2, in the leech subesophageal ganglion which can trigger swimming activity in the isolated central nervous system (CNS). In this paper, we describe sensory inputs to these trigger neurons from previously identified mechanosensory neurons. We found that:
  1. 1.

    Weak mechanical stimulation (stroking) of a body wall flap attached to a segmental ganglion in an otherwise isolated CNS excites the contralateral Tr1 slightly. Strong mechanical stimulation (pinching) of a mid-body wall flap evokes a burst of impulses in the contralateral Tr1. For both means of stimulation the effects on the ipsilateral Tr1 and on the Tr2 cell pair were much weaker.

  2. 2.

    Stroking a body wall flap attached to the head ganglion (supra- and subesophageal ganglia) in an otherwise isolated CNS excites both Tr1s and both Tr2s, although the effect is weaker for the Tr2s. Pinching strongly excites both trigger neurons bilaterally.

  3. 3.

    Pressure and nociceptive mechanosensory neurons (P and N cells) in the subesophageal ganglion and the first segmental ganglion appear to make direct excitatory synapses with the contralateral Tr1 and Tr2. Mechanosensory interactions with the ipsilateral trigger neurons appear to be indirect.

  4. 4.

    Functional inactivation of Tr1 by hyperpolarization does not prevent swim initiation either by weak mechanical stimulation of a body-wall flap or by intracellular stimulation of P cells.

  5. 5.

    We conclude that the trigger neurons, Tr1 and Tr2, provide an excitatory pathway by which mechanosensory stimulation can initiate leech swimming activity. This pathway appears more important for strong than for weak mechanical stimulation. Since activity in the Tr1 pair is not required for swim initiation by some forms of stimulation, additional pathways leading from mechanosensory neurons to the oscillator network remain undiscovered.